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Need a hand with your manicures? After a year plus of painting our nails at home (and testing every polish under the sun during that time), we’ve narrowed down some of our favorite gel nail polish brands for you to try.
Note: Many of these picks do not require an LED or UV light like the traditional gels you’d get at a salon. However, the durability of these polishes is still impressive. There’s also the added bonus of not having to deal with the whole removal process, which can be cumbersome at best and damaging at worst.
Ready to mani? Let’s peruse our best gel nail polish picks together ahead.
Our Picks at A Glance:
Best Overall: Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish
Shiniest Finish: Nails Inc. Gel Effect Polish
Best for Beginners: OPI Infinite Shine Long Lasting Nail Polish
Best Budget: Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Polish
Best Luxury: Dior Vernis Gel Shine & Long Wear Nail Lacquer
Best Shade Range: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel
Sheerest Texture: CND Vinylux Longwear Nail Polish
Most Nourishing: Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro
Best Top Coat: Londontown Kur Genius Top Coat
Best for Travel: Le Mini Macaron 1-Step Gel Manicure Kit
Best All-In-One Set: Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Pro Kit
1. Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish
From the sculptural bottle to the thoughtfully designed brush, which features wide, curved bristles that lay down the smoothest coats of color, you can always count on these polishes to deliver the very best coverage and wear.
2. Nails Inc. Gel Effect Polish
If extra shine is what you seek, then extra shine is what you’ll get with this glossy option from Nails Inc. Meant to mimic that satisfyingly plump finish you get with a traditional gel mani, the formula is thicker than some of the others on this list (so make sure you allow for plenty of dry time between coats to prevent premature chipping). That said, the shine really is next level.
3. OPI Infinite Shine Long Lasting Nail Polish
Best for Beginners
Chances are that if you’ve ever painted your nails at home, you’ve owned a bottle (or 20) of OPI polish. It’s a well-loved classic with many iconic shades like “Bubble Bath” or “Lincoln Park After Dark” and their upgraded Infinite Shine collection boasts many of the same attributes of the OG polish—but with even better wear time and shine. We also appreciate that they’ve grouped the shades by color family, so you can easily shop for nudes, reds, pinks, blues and browns.
4. Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Polish
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal on gel polish than this drugstore darling. To break it down for you in numbers, in just two steps you’ll get a minimum of 7 days wear and there are 46 different shades to choose from.
5. Dior Vernis Gel Shine & Long Wear Nail Lacquer
If you don’t mind splurging a bit, Dior’s ultra-pigmented polish has a special place in our hearts. It really is a cut above in terms of vibrancy and the way the colors pop against your skin. Special mention also goes to their brush, which is wider than most and has a rounded head that curves to fit your cuticles.
6. Sally Hansen Miracle Gel
Best Shade Range
There’s a shade to fit every mood and occasion in Sally Hansen’s expansive collection. (See neon green polish above.) We also love how quickly this dries despite its thicker formula. Combined with the corresponding top coat, the brand claims up to 8 days of chip-free wear.
7. CND Vinylux Longwear Nail Polish
Like most things in beauty (and, um, life) your preferences are subjective. While some people prefer a thicker polish because of their instant opacity, others find them a tad too gloopy to apply. For those people, we recommend CND’s Vinylux, which has a thinner consistency than most, and therefore dries down faster (though you may need a third coat depending on the shade and, again, your preference).
8. Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro
If you have the type of nails that tend to peel and break at the slightest touch, get thee some Deborah Lippmann. Loaded with ingredients like biotin and omega fatty acids that strengthen and hydrate brittle nails, the formula also delivers a cushiony finish and is a joy to paint with.
9. Londontown Kur Genius Top Coat
Best Top Coat
Speaking of nourishing ingredients, this shiny topper features rapeseed flower oil (which despite its unfortunate name is very conditioning to your nails) and none of the harsh formaldehydes—or toluene, DBP, or camphor. Use it over any of your polishes to amp up shine and extend their wear.
10. Le Mini Macaron 1-Step Gel Manicure Kit
Best for Travel
This portable pick is so small it fits in most purses. Even though it's petite, the kit packs everything you need for a quick gel mani including a mini macaron-shaped LED lamp (which honestly makes us smile every time we look at it), a cuticle pusher, a mini nail file, a 1-step gel polish that cures in 30 seconds, and 10 polish remover wraps for when it’s time to change your color.
11. Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Pro Kit
Best All-in-One Set
If you’re pro status with your home manicures, it may be time to invest in a pro-level kit. This one comes with a nail cleanser and prep step as well as, a base coat, a polish, a top coat, cuticle oil, remover and a personal LED lamp to get your nails vacay ready (meaning resistant to chipping and normal wear-and-tear for weeks). As one longtime fan shares: “I have owned and used this kit since 2012. I love it and it has paid for itself many times over.”